Monday, December 24, 2012

Movies: Like a little lump of coal for your hoilday horror film stocking.


What actress reads a script that dispatches her by rape/murder-by-snowman's-nose-carrot and thinks, "All right! This is a film a have to be part of!"? That's not a rhetorical question. The answer is Shannon Elizabeth. 

This is the only question to which the answer is Shannon Elizabeth.

Jack Frost, the '97 straight-to-video flick starring a serial killer turned snowman, is one of those films that seems to believe that you can mitigate your suckiness by admitting to the audience that you're aware of your suckiness. It's called Carsoning. David Foster Wallace once wrote a 1,700 page essay on the phenomenon and in the footnote to the 3,245th endnote in the third appendix of the second volume of the CD supplement, he defined Carsoning as preempting criticism of a creative act by overtly taking a critical stance to it yourself within the creative act. Done well, you groan before you tell the joke, before the audience does, and you've shifted the emphasis of the humor to your empathic link with the audience and you're now banded together in mutual mockery of a crappy joke, even though you told the crappy joke.

Here's the problem, there needs to be some element of plausible denial for Carsoning to work. (This is why DFW was so baffled by the phenomenon and pondered why it was almost impossible for an artist to pull off.) Carson wasn't making fun of his own jokes: he was breaking the fourth wall, revealing explicitly the work of a writing staff, and acting as if he too was this staff's unwitting victim. 

To take an example closer to the world of horror flicks, think of MST3000. The concept worked for so long because they could act like they too were victims of the crappy flicks they shared with the audience. In fact, that was even part of the framing device of the show. Now imagine a show's whose premise is that the people making fun of the movies they showed you were also responsible for making the crappy movies. The result would be tedium.

Jack Frost is just that: a Möbius strip of mediocrity commenting on its own mediocrity. You haven't been that naughty this year. There's no reason to do this to yourself.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Movies: The best worst plan in horror bad guy history.

Shark Night 3D contains more than one shark and takes place over the course of more than one single night. That's really the only sense in which Shark Night can be said to exceed expectations.

Almost nothing works in this flick. The plot revolves around a completely stupid idea and the only way to redeem it would have been to simply go gonzo with it. But, in fact, Shark Night disappoints in its lame timidity. Okay, I'm not one of those bloggers who thinks every horror flick need be some battle of endurance wherein the viewer is pitted against the red syrup budget of the SFX department. I'll take smart plotting, rich characters, engaging themes, and genuine emotional impact over schlock any day of the week. But - and let's be honest with ourselves - what did anybody firing up the streaming (ha, I originally wrote steaming!) version of SN want or expect from this flick. Ain't nobody turning to their partner and saying, "Dear, I know we intended to watch Tarr's Autumn Almanac tonight, but I've heard that Shark Night captures the spiritual malaise while pushing the project of inventing the self-conscious experimentalism of remodernism even further than Tarr by placing it within a post-Guattarian framework. Plus, it's got the dude from Grounded for Life in it. We like him."

No, of course they didn't. If they did, they got exactly what they deserved. In fact, whatever happens to somebody like that is completely deserved. Even if it is worse than Shark Night.

What anybody who watched this flick expected to see was nubile flesh, sharks, and death. See pic above.

Problem is, Shark Night is kinda afraid of girls when it comes to the skin show and it's remarkably bloodless when it comes to the killin'. It's got sharks, granted; but one out of three does not a champion make.

I will say that Shark Night does feature what is probably the most hilariously stupid villainous plan ever committed to film - or digital memory, as the case may be. I don't think you can spoil a rotten film, but if you're one of those obsessives, skip the rest of this paragraph and jump straight to the next one. Okay. They're gone. Here's the dilly. We're going to bide time here so it looks convincing that I'm dropping a spoiler on you. Then, in the next paragraph, I'm going to drop a spoiler on them right in the first sentence. Because we can. Are they looking over here? Look cool, look cool! Just act natural. Now, like, nod like I just told you all about the film. And . . . 

The sharks are in the lake because some baddies thought a good way to make money would be to catch and maintain a large stable of the world's most deadly creatures - including what appears to be two animals (great whites) that have never been able to survive captivity before - so they can make Internet shark snuff films. Oh, um. End spoiler.

The sheer awesomeness of this idea is almost enough to redeem the film. Imagine the chain of logic that led three backwater hicks to this plan. "You know what people love watching: shark attacks."

"True that. I bet you could get rich if you just, like, had a ton of recorded shark attacks to sell."

"Yeah. Shame you'd have to figure out a way to make 'em happen regular like."

"Yeah. Shame there . . . Hey, wait. Here me out. What if we, you know, bought a boat. Then tricked it out with sufficient material and tech to capture sharks live. And I'm talking big sharks. Plus, you know, we should probably all get degrees in marine biology, 'cause I understand that keeping them things alive in captivity, especially the big ticket fellas, is a serious challenge for even the most well staffed and equipped aquarium."
"Yeah. Like, even the Monterey Bay folks couldn't keep that baby great white contained and alive from more than few months."

"Exactly. That's what I'm sayin'. We'll need some real specialized skills and knowledge."

"The old boat shed probably won't cut it neither."

"Naw. And there's going to be a major outlay in underwater recording equipment."

"And we best hope the sharks just don't eat each other."

"Right. Sometimes, you just got to trust to God right? But anyway, I figure, for a several million outlay for training, equipment, labor, facility upgrades, and such, a fella stands to make a few bucks."

That, my friends, is entrepreneurial thinking.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"The lesson for everyone else: Never attempt to engage in any kind of outdoor physical activity, because traps are everywhere."


As a horror blogger, I don't get a lot of opportunity to link to Gawker, but said site has taken a break from its normal flow of "President Garfield still dead" recycled news and breathless speculation about the mental life of James Franco to finally post something worth linking to.

Police in Utah County, Utah, have busted two dudes who apparently booby-trapped the crap out of a popular hiking trail with stuff straight out of some "killer hillbilly" flick. The nasty bit of work shown above "was to be triggered via a fishing line trip wire; when crossed, it would send a 20-pound boulder, to which several sharpened spikes had been affixed with what looks to be just tons and tons and tons of rope, speeding at a victim's head."

Mercifully, they were complete idiots and bragged about their death traps on facebook.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Music: The Wolfgangs, "Cannibal Family"

So for the past month or so, I've been working on a entry pondering just how many people a cannibal clan would need to kill just to get the necessary calories in their diet. You'd be surprised at the amount of research that's been done on this question. While I continue to plug away, here's a song about cannibals. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Movies: The second worst thing Bin Laden has ever done to us?

What hath Kickstarter wrought?

It's possible that you were tiring of the zombie craze. Perhaps you've got no more energy for a fast vs. slow zombie debates. Maybe you think that context shifts - zombie strippers in space! - will no longer grab your attention by the shorties. "My God, just let this plague of zombie crap end!" you might cry in the long, dark lonely nights.

Well, this won't change any of that.

Somebody's made a zombie flick featuring Bin Laden as one of the walking dead.